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New Concept Aimed at Lackluster Salons

NEW YORK — Move over Aveda, concept salons aren’t just for the big boys.<br><br>Pittsburgh native and salon owner Philip Pelusi is looking to grow his company, Studio of Elegance Inc., a 13-unit chain of Philip Pelusi salons in the Greater...

NEW YORK — Move over Aveda, concept salons aren’t just for the big boys.

Pittsburgh native and salon owner Philip Pelusi is looking to grow his company, Studio of Elegance Inc., a 13-unit chain of Philip Pelusi salons in the Greater Pittsburgh area, into a network of stores that follow his self-made philosophy of nature, science, beauty and wellness.

The concept, Phyto-Life, comes complete with a hair-cutting philosophy, education, marketing tools and a product line by the same name. It aims to target newer and up-and-coming salons in need of artistic direction.

By recruiting these smaller salons — rather than building Philip Pelusi salons organically — Pelusi estimates he could operate 400 concept salons by 2005. Currently, Pelusi’s company generates approximately $15 million each year. With the addition of concept salons, Pelusi could generate an additional $1 million a year per salon once each has fully matured, usually a one- to two-year period.

To introduce salons to the concept, this month Phyto-Life product begins shipping nationwide. The 60-stockkeeping-unit line began 20 years ago, with at least two new products being introduced annually. Phyto-Life now includes a comprehensive assortment of shampoos, treatment shampoos, treatment conditioners and styling products. Some are off the beaten path, such as X-Treme, a spray-on liquid hair protein; Fusion Foam, a two-in-one foam designed to style, strengthen and shine hair, and Glimmer, a medium-hold styling smoother with sparkles.

Many products in the Pelusi line contain between 60 and 85 percent natural ingredients. Products retail from $14.95 for shampoos to $34.95 for a hydrating treatment.

Pelusi estimates his product line could generate as much as $6 million in 2003, double what it rings now in approximately 350 to 400 salons in the Northeast and Southeast regions.

Dollar incentives earned from the purchase of Phyto-Life products can be used toward concept services, such as photography and education. “For every dollar you spend, you get a point,” Pelusi said. “So if you spend $2,000 on products, you get $2,000 in training. We can custom design [the training] for whatever the salon needs, for cutting, color or PhotoSynthesis,” Pelusi said, referring to the hands-on makeup, hair and fashion shoots Pelusi would oversee and photograph for clients. Photos can be used as marketing tools for mailings that bear the salon’s name. While Pelusi is eager to share his concept, he also believes it’s critical to “maintain a salon’s individual identity in respect to the hairstylist, salon owner or creative team. As they progress, they could use their own photos. This should serve as a template for them to get on their feet.”

Photo sessions are held at Pelusi’s education center, called SPACE (Space for Photography and Creative Expressions), located in Pittsburgh.

Pelusi didn’t plan on becoming a hairdresser. He dropped out of high school, unclear of what he wanted to do with his life. He considered pursuing a fashion career, but realized attending the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design required a high school diploma. Beauty school, Pelusi said, “felt good and natural” so he quit doing odd jobs in the construction arena, sold his car and attended night school. Pelusi’s first job as a hairdresser was at Studio of Elegance, a salon in Squirrel Hill, an upscale area of Pittsburgh. Within two years, Pelusi took over the salon and started developing Volumetrics, a cutting technique that Pelusi describes as one that follows the texture, fabric and density of hair, versus the metrics of hair.

A string of salons followed. Recently, Pelusi entered Manhattan with the purchase of a condominium in Gramercy Park. He plans to style hair from there for private clients once or twice a month.

“I’m a work in progress so where this [gig] takes me I’ll go along,” Pelusi said.